The Corner

A Blizzard of Snowdens

John Yoo writes below about prosecuting NSA leaker Edward Snowden, and observes en passant:

If he is a spy — it is amazing that someone with such little education and background was given such extensive security clearance — he may well continue running abroad.

John knows government from the inside as well as anyone, so I don’t know why it would be “amazing” at all. Over 4 million people hold US security clearances: That’s the equivalent of giving security clearances to the entire population of New Zealand. According to the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, a total of 642,831 people were approved for Confidential, Secret, and Top Secret clearances in FY 2010 alone (scroll down to page five).

You know the way the bureaucracy works, John: How seriously do you think those two-thirds-of-a-million people were looked at? The report seems to suggest a turnover of about 600,000 in a typical year, which means that the actual number of Americans with some kind of security clearance from the last half-decade alone could be closer to seven million.

Even more amazing are the words immediately preceding that:

The number of clearances approved could not be obtained for FY 2009 . . .

So the same government that presumes the right to know my phone calls, my emails and my MasterCard purchases doesn’t know how many security clearances it issued in a given year.

The rationale given by defenders of this system over the last few days — oh, relax; there are over 300 million of us; the government doesn’t have time to comb through all the stuff it’s got on you — would seem to apply here: When 4 million people have security clearances, and another 1,800 people are getting new security clearances every day, the government doesn’t even have time to comb through them before it lets them comb through you.

Over at Powerline, Scott Johnson writes of Mr Snowden:

Read the Guardian profile and the Post articles and you will see that Snowden professes no loyalty to the United States. He conceives of himself as a citizen of the world, or of the realm of Digitalia. He does not sound like anyone to be trusted with an assessment on our behalf the costs and benefits of the course of action he has undertaken.

Just so. One reason for the citizenry not to entrust its personal information to the government is that the big, bloated, blundering government is stupid enough to entrust it to Edward Snowden, as it was previously stupid enough to entrust it to Bradley Manning (the Wikileaks leaker). It’s only a matter of time before the halfwit leviathan entrusts it to a Major Hasan or a Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

Mark Steyn — Mark Steyn is an international bestselling author, a Top 41 recording artist, and a leading Canadian human-rights activist.

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